Crystal Palace currently sit 11th in the Premier League table, after five consecutive Premier League victories.
The Eagles host Manchester City this weekend and the Citizens will be in for a very tough game, something you would not have said a few months into the current campaign.
Crystal Palace are now just one point away from the top-half of the table. This is an incredible turnaround this season considering that when boss Tony Pulis arrived the Eagles were rock-bottom of the top-flight table.
A midtable finish for the Eagles would be an unexpected result for a squad of players that looked like had already accepted relegation in the first few months of the campaign.
Crystal Palace boss Tony Pulis came in for some heavy criticism while in charge of Stoke, despite the fact that he kept the Potters in the top-flight season after season on a relatively modest budget compared to some of the other teams in the league.
His style of play was criticised at Stoke. It was often described as’ direct’ or ‘long ball football’. His team were also often accused of being over-physical. However, for all the criticism of his style of play it was effective and got Stoke results.
Far bigger clubs were scared of Stoke and hated visiting the Potters’ Britannia Stadium, a reputation that Palace may now develop. The criticism of Stoke and their boss was rather harsh. There is more than one way to win a football match and Pulis plays to his player’s strengths.
Pulis has always managed modest teams with hard-working players, who are not always the most talented, that means he has to make the most of their talents and play for their strengths. If he was given more talented players maybe he would play a more expansive style.
I have to state my admiration for Tony Pulis. The Welshman has always come across as a straight-forward no-nonsense kind of guy, much like his style of football. He has never been relegated in his managerial career and has helped the current Palace squad overachieve in the top-flight.
The way that Pulis sets up his team is quite simple. Pulis teams are well-organised at the back, hard to break down and good on the counter-attack. However, Palace are also playing more football and certainly cannot be accused of being a long ball team.
The Eagles mix up their style of play slightly and it would be unfair to claim that Palace are just scrappers or over-physical under Pulis.
A big part of Palace’s recent good run has been their excellent defensive record. Only four teams in the Premier League have better defensive records than the Eagles this season and Pulis’ arrival has aided that statistic.
Palace have conceded just 20 goals in 24 games under Pulis and have kept a very creditable 11 clean sheets under the Welshman. The Eagles five match winning run has saw them keep four clean sheets and the only team that have managed to breach Julian Speroni’s goal was in-form Everton.
January signing Scott Dann has made a big contribution to that defensive record. The former-Blackburn centre-back has forged a solid partnership with veteran Damien Delaney at the heart of the Palace defence, while full-backs Joel Ward and Adrian Mariappa have also been excellent.
When Crystal Palace were first promoted they were expected to struggle in the top-flight and they did until Tony Pulis arrived. Taking Palace clear of the relegation zone would even have been an achievement, but to take Palace close to the top half is outstanding.
The Eagles have never managed to beat the drop in the Premier League era. To manage at least two consecutive seasons in the Premier League must be regarded as an achievement for Pulis and his team considering where the team where when he took over.
Manager of the Year
I have mentioned in past articles that I believe Tony Pulis should be one of the main contenders for Manager of the Year. Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers is obviously the frontrunner after guiding the Reds to what now looks like the Premier League title.
However, some would argue that the job that Pulis has done at Palace is just as impressive in some ways and he definitely deserves acknowledgement for his work this season.
Tony Pulis faces a big challenge this summer getting rid of the deadwood in the Palace squad and strengthening for next season. No doubt the former-Stoke boss will have Palace in even better shape next season.
In the new campaign there will be few teams taking Palace lightly and it really would not surprise me if Palace became a Premier League regular under the guidance of the experienced Pulis.
Does Tony Pulis deserve Manager of the year?
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